The US will deploy additional aircraft to backfill the B-1s that recently left the US Central Command area of responsibility, but the military is not ready to announce which airframes will deploy, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said on Friday. “We are confident we won’t lose capability,” said Warren, who noted that two carrier strike groups also have moved to the Middle East to assist with anti-ISIS operations. “We have the airframes we need to conduct the operations we want to conduct,” he added. B-1s have been a workhorse in coalition operations since OIR airstrikes began in the summer of 2014. The bombers returned to Ellsworth AFB, S.D., on Jan. 25, marking the first time since 2001 B-1s were not deployed to the Middle East. The aircraft returned stateside to receive a series of upgrades intended to keep the aircraft viable beyond 2040.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.